August 2, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Bogus Jobs and Exploiting Employers

"...f it sounds too easy or too good to be true, it probably is"

By Patty Armstrong

Where’s My Great Career?

Patty Armstrong is a career counselor and educator on a mission to help people of all ages find careers they enjoy.

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It makes me very sad to find the need to write this article. But thanks to the attentiveness and good instincts of my program assistant, we identified another (rare) fraudulent job posting that had been sent to us. Even though the contact information was different, it was similar to one that a couple of our clients had responded to several months back. They were paid in counterfeit money orders and let us know, so we were able to tag the employer. With a little Internet research using this employer’s e-mail,  I found a similar posting in another state hundreds of miles away and that the previous scammer had done the same thing! Perhaps it was even the same scammer. My program assistant said “Errand Runner” was his red flag for a bogus job.

If an employer doesn’t want to identify themselves, that’s your first red flag. It doesn’t mean they’re not a real employer with a great job, but you need to activate your skepticism. Send a general query e-mail, maybe from a separate Gmail or Hotmail account, asking for more information about the job and company, or call with a list of questions about the job and where you can find out more about the company.

Then consider the quality of their response and research the company yourself before you provide them with your full resume and cover letter. In a quick search online using the keywords “fraudulent job postings”, I found several helpful and informative articles from various university career centers, one from the Better Business Bureau and one from the Federal Trades Commission. I won’t repeat what they said and strongly encourage you to do a similar web search to become better able to protect yourself.

I turn away many well-intentioned, but naïve employers who are hoping to get free work done by my clients through offering internships. I inform them that this is against federal law. An unpaid internship must be a short-term, learning situation, best set up for academic credit with the supervision of a faculty member or employment program case manager. Smart employers offer at least minimum wage, so the intern will be covered under their liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Great employers will pay a competitive wage and recruit their next entry level, full time employees from their interns.

I’ve also had clients who reported their employers were verbally abusive and/or sexually harassed them – and they felt they had no other choice but to put up with it – until they couldn’t stand it anymore. I advise employees to contact the New Mexico Department of Labor Human Rights office (www.dws.state.nm.us) right away for help these and any other kinds of exploitive situations.

In hard times, our worry over money and making ends meet make us especially vulnerable to predators. We risk theft of our personal identity and our bank accounts (for direct deposit paychecks or online fee payments), our personal safety, and our sanity, if we believe that we can’t afford to be fussy, find good job opportunities without providing personal information or paying for access, and insist that our employer or potential employer be above board and clear about what they offer.

Finding and developing confidence in yourself, trusting your gut instincts, and knowing your worth are the best preventative measures anyone can take. A job search is tough enough without the trouble and frustrations that can arise if we are not cautious. With persistence, you can find and get a great job. The vast majority of posted jobs are legitimate with honest and sincere employers. But if it sounds too easy or too good to be true, it probably is.

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